Every small business needs to work with both an accountant and an attorney. While the necessity of an accountant is obvious, the reasons for hiring a small business attorney may not always be so clear. A lot of small businesses operate on virtually a shoestring budget for the first several years, and sometimes, the entrepreneurs who launch those small startups simply presume that an attorney’s services will be too costly. What they may not have calculated accurately is the cost of not having an attorney’s services.

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WHAT CAN HAPPEN TO A BUSINESS WITHOUT AN ATTORNEY?

Unfortunately, what happens too often is that a small business owner delays until the last possible minute – when the company is being sued or cited – to retain the services of an attorney. But when a business owner in Georgia works with an experienced Atlanta business attorney from the very beginning, that attorney can often put legal solutions in place before legal problems emerge – saving business owners substantial time and resources in the long run.

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Candid, sound legal advice from an experienced small business attorney can help to protect a small business from the potential legal actions that might be brought by employees, clients, suppliers, contractors, and others. You may need to comply with environmental and zoning regulations, advertising and marketing standards, and depending on the nature of the business and number of employees; your business may be subject to numerous Federal employment laws, including the Fair Labor Standards Act, Americans With Disabilities Act, and the Family and Medical Leave Act. If you employ foreign nationals, you’ll need to be compliant with immigration laws and prepared for inspections by immigration authorities.

WHAT IF A SMALL BUSINESS BUDGET IS LIMITED?

A good small business lawyer is the most effective legal help available to small businesses with limited budgets. Most of the legal matters that a small business owner must deal with are routine, and most of the necessary legal documents can be handled and expedited quickly and economically. A good business attorney can offer valuable legal experience and insights regarding almost every legal matter a business owner may face, from zoning, incorporation, premises liability, and other lawsuits.

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A good business lawyer will help you focus on avoiding legal disputes and preventing legal actions against you. By the time your business is sued or investigated, the damage has already been done; all that remains is how much you’ll pay in legal costs, court fees, and potential fines or damages. Listed here are several of the common scenarios that will inevitably require the counsel of an experienced small business attorney – someone who can provide sound legal advice, ensure that any necessary legal paperwork is complete, accurate, and on time, and advocate on behalf of you and your business in court if that should become necessary:

• Business Formation: Establishing a corporation or any other type of business can be an immensely complicated task. A small business attorney can provide invaluable information regarding the legal differences between various business forms, including s-corporations, partnerships, and limited liability companies, and help advise which form may be right for your business model. Your attorney can also provide assistance with drafting and filing articles of incorporation, and creating operating agreements for businesses with more than one owner.

• Litigation: Litigation is the most serious reason you may need a small business attorney. You’ll need an experienced litigator if a government or law enforcement agency is investigating your business for any reason or accusing you of a violation or a crime. You’ll also need a seasoned litigator to defend private civil lawsuits filed by former or current partners, clients, employees, or customers.

• Major Transactions: You’ll also want the advice of a good small business attorney when you buy or sell a business. An Atlanta business attorney can help you negotiate sales, purchases, and lease agreements, review all of the paperwork to ensure its accuracy and its full compliance with the law, and represent you if necessary in real estate and leasing disputes.

WHAT ELSE DOES A BUSINESS ATTORNEY DO?

A small business attorney can also help small business owners write and negotiate contracts; conduct internal investigations; develop employee policies and compliance procedures; and act as your corporate secretary and registered agent. A good business lawyer will handle your routine business matters quickly, comprehensively, and reliably. When you work with a good attorney from the start, any unanticipated legal issues or disputes that emerge will be handled by an experienced small business lawyer you already know and trust. A small business lawyer will also be able to help you with matters such as:

• corporate dissolutions
• advising on protecting the corporate veil
• partnership disputes
• researching a name for your business
• creating a partnership or a limited liability company (LLC)
• creating contracts for customers or clients
• creating a buy-sell agreement with partners
• applying for any required licenses and permits
• interviewing and hiring employees
• establishing lien filing procedures for small construction businesses
• updating any legal documents as needed

This list is by no means exhaustive, but when a small business owner works with the right business attorney from the start, you’ll have someone you can turn to with any legal question or concerns – someone who already knows your business, how it operates, and the range of issues you face. Even a minor violation or an honest mistake can cost you substantially in lost hours, expenses, and red tape, so working with a small business lawyer is the best investment you can make for avoiding those kinds of unanticipated legal troubles.

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If you own a small business already, or if you are buying or starting up a business, develop a relationship with an experienced small business lawyer. In fact, you really shouldn’t go into business without a small business attorney’s advice. Of course, no business owner likes to take time away from customers and clients to deal with legal matters, but it’s wiser to deal with legal matters before they become legal problems. Be sure that you have the legal help you may need, because if you own a small business for any length of time, the chances are high that you’re going to need it. If you have legal questions or concerns during the formation of a company or at any point, call Hecht Walker P.C. to set up a consultation.